Wednesday, March 03, 2004

posted by James - 3:05 PM

Holy big freakin' dollar signs, Batman.

The NFL has entered the free agency period with gusto and the cliché breaking the bank applies.

Pro-bowl RB Clinton Portis broke the bank with his new team in Washington.

His trade counterpart and fellow Pro-bowler, CB Champ Bailey, broke a bigger bank with Denver.

And Colts QB Payton Manning broke two banks with an astounding $34.5 million GUARANTEED signing bonus.

But that was before free agency opened today, and teams are following their lead.

Dallas Head Coach Bill Parcells gave up the damn bank to acquire WR Keyshawn Johnson from the Buccaneers. Parcells originally drafted Johnson number one overall when he coached the New York Jets. Johnson has already agreed to a $20 million deal for the next four years, which means he'll wear a star next year whether or not the trade includes the Buccaneers getting WR Joey Galloway or draft picks (which they need after the Gruden trade).

Comparatively and appropriately, the Packers broke open a piggy bank to keep Chad Clifton, their best offensive lineman, from hogging their salary cap space as their franchise player. I love word play, and I love seeing hogs get their money.

Oakland broke a bank and a wide-load truck to bring in DT Ted Washington to anchor their new 3-4 defensive system. He's the first to leave the defending-champion New England Patriots, and he might not be the last out of their 20 free agents. Do they care? Not at all, on account of their favorable salary cap situation and astounding five draft picks in the first two rounds next year.

And Philadelphia freaked open the bank by signing former Tennessee LB/DL Jevon "The Freak" Kearse, which is surprising because they had a strong defense and still need to give QB Donovan McNabb some tools to work with (more if they don't bring back RB Duce Staley) and avoid a fourth-straight, NFC Championship Game loss.

That being said, I have absolutely no problem with any of the above signings. They're not totally fiscally irresponsible (especially with the salary cap increasing this year), and they all help fill a hole or maintain a strength of a team.

I only mentioned them briefly earlier, but Portis wasn't the only noise the Redskins made today. Owner Daniel Snyder seems to have an indestructible bank, because he's a whirling dervish when it comes to throwing money around.

But unlike the Portis deal, I'm not sure they're getting their money's worth.

They traded for and signed former Jacksonville and UW Husky QB Mark Brunell (WOOF! WOOF! Gotta love when a DAWG gets paid) when they already had Patrick Ramsay, who survived last year in front of since-departed Head Coach Steve Spurrier's inept protection schemes.

After losing Kearse to division-rival Philadelphia, they countered by signing DT Cornelius Griffin and Bears castoff DE Philip Daniels and replacing Bailey with oft-injured CB Shawn Springs.

I wonder how much longer Snyder can continue to bring in aging and/or unproductive veterans, but then I just read a report which listed them among the top-five income producing sports franchises in the world. Could Terrell Owens or Randy Moss be on their radar screen too?

And finally we have the Bears who continue to give Chicago sports fans something good to talk about since the Blackhawks are pathetic (ditto the White Sox and Bulls) and our constant source of good news, the Cubs, might have to take a couple days off from making the Faithful beam with pride until Spring Training games start on Thursday (when Greg Maddux will make his first in-game reintroduction to Cubdom).

The Bears have released dead weights in QB Kordell Stewart (halle- FREAKIN’-lujah) and Daniels, tendered a contract to versatile O-lineman Wayne Gandy and now have started the free-agent season on the right growl.

The Bears strengthened two key offensive positions by signing RB Thomas Jones, a former first-round pick who set a personal career best for rushing yards last season with Tampa Bay, to a four-year contract and QB Jonathan Quinn to provide depth behind QB Rex Grossman in his sophomore year.

Yeah, they hired a coach named Lovie, but he had the good sense to bring in a quality offensive coordinator like Terry Shea, and then they gave him a quarterback (Quinn) who is familiar with the offense he ran in Kansas City so Grossman can turn into the next Trent Green.

So his name won’t inspire fear like Halas or Ditka, but it’s a lot better than missing out on a guy named Payton who nobody would consider “Sweetness” just so they could settle on a guy named Norv.

Sorry, Daniel. I had to take a shot at your Raiders.

That’s enough football for me. Check, please!

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